Government to repossess idle mines

The government will launch a nation-wide exercise to map all mining areas country-wide to establish if all mines allocated to investors are being fully utilized.

Mining Cabinet Secretary (CS) Dan Kazungu said owners of mines found to be idle will be required to show-cause-why the mines should not be repossessed by the state.

Kazungu said after repossesing the mines, the state will allocate them to other investors who can develop and utilize them.

Speaking to miners in Mwatate over the weekend, the CS said that some miners had been allocated vast chunks of land to mine but were only utilizing a small part.

This, he said denied the government and other stakeholders the revenue needed for development.

The CS further said that plans will be put in place to ensure idle mining land is given to those who will make effective use of it.

“The mapping exercise will find out where the mines are located and if the owners are fully exploiting them. There is no need to own massive land that is not being put into good use,” he said.

He added that the government is drafting the Mining Bill 2016 to address major challenges in the sector.

Key among the challenges is the incessant conflicts amongst miners over land.

This had led to hundreds of cases being filed in court that have stalled mining activities and denied government its share of revenue from the sector.

The Bill proposes creation of an elaborate framework that will advocate for alternative dispute resolution mechanisms to handle miners’ disputes.

“Some of the disputes amongst miners can be handled amicably outside the court rooms which save time and money for the parties involved,” he added.

The CS was accompanied by Principal Secretary for Mining Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim , governor John Mruttu, MPs Andrew Mwadime for Mwatate, Jones Mlolwa for Voi, Thomas Mwadgehu for Wundanyi and Joyce Lay, the County Women Representative.

Mr. Kazungu was on a whirlwind tour in the region where he visited Chawia CBO mining zones and Classic mines in Mwatate sub-County.

He later addressed miners in Mwatate town before touring a Gemstone Processing Center under construction in Voi town.

The newly appointed CS revealed that mining remained one of the most under-exploited sectors contributing 0.1 per cent to the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

He noted that the low revenue was caused by reliance on obsolete mining techniques, poor funding in the sector, non-declaration of actual minerals by miners and protracted court cases over mining disputes.

The Mining Bill 2016 will also strengthen the policy of encouraging investors in the mining through offering of incentives.

Governor Mruttu asked the national government to supply equipment to the mining regions to help ease the process of mining.

He noted that the region was endowed with massive resources but lacked the capacity to exploit them.

He added that the sector was ripe for employing thousands of youths if resources were allocated to mining.

“Already, over 2,000 youth are earning a living from this single site. If we identify ten more sites, those will be over 20,000 youth engaged in some form of employment,” he said.

Mr. Kazungu promised to liaise with National Youth Service to deploy equipment like graders, compressors and bulldozers to the mining zones in the region to help miners break into virgin territories.

He further added that the government was exploring the possibility of focusing on four main high-value minerals to form the backbone of the mining sector.

The four high-value minerals are copper, iron-ore, gold and coal.

He said that the four mineral types had the potential to create a foundation for effective exploitation of other minerals in the country.

Mr. Kazungu noted that the government was working on developing the capacity of local miners to enable them to compete effectively with large scale mining investors.

He also said that he would liaise with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to explore the possibility of local residents being allowed to carry out mining activities inside Tsavo National Park.

By Wagema Mwangi

Source: Kenya News Agency